Robert Mapplethorpe - Photographs London Wednesday, May 18, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Christie's, New York, 3 October 1996, lot 449

  • Literature

    M. Holborn, D. Levas, eds., Mapplethorpe, Jonathan Cape, 1992, covers and pp. 8-9
    G. Celant, A. Ippolitov, Robert Mapplethorpe and the Classical Tradition: Photographs and Mannerist Prints, Guggenheim, 2004, pl. 120
    Robert Mapplethorpe, National Galleries of Scotland, 2006, pl. 79
    American Art and Philanthropy: Twenty Years of Collecting at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, MFAH, 2010
    Robert Mapplethorpe X7, teNeues, 2011
    Mapplethorpe / Rodin, Musée Rodin/ Actes Sud, 2014

  • Catalogue Essay

    Throughout his career, Mapplethorpe took self portraits as a means of expression. This powerful close-up of his eyes was taken only a few months before his death at the age of 42 from AIDS-related complications. Despite his illness, the artist’s stare is forceful and unflinching. These haunting eyes belong to a brave man who confronted mortality and pursued his art until the very end.

    This image was realised only as a gelatin silver print in an edition of 10 + 2 AP. Prints of this image have been acquired by the following institutions: Tate/National Galleries of Scotland, UK; Getty Museum/LACMA, Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and Museum of Modern Art, New York. This exceedingly rare photograph was acquired by the present owner in 1996 at auction – the only time this image has appeared at auction – and has been in the same private collection for 20 years.

    Phillips is a proud sponsor of the exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), 20 March – 31 July, 2016. A companion exhibition is presented concurrently at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

  • Artist Biography

    Robert Mapplethorpe

    American • 1946 - 1989

    After studying drawing, painting and sculpture at the Pratt Institute in the 1960s, Robert Mapplethorpe began experimenting with photography while living in the notorious Chelsea Hotel with Patti Smith. Beginning with Polaroids, he soon moved on to a Hasselblad medium-format camera, which he used to explore aspects of life often only seen behind closed doors.

    By the 1980s Mapplethorpe's focus was predominantly in the studio, shooting portraits, flowers and nudes. His depiction of the human form in formal compositions reflects his love of classical sculpture and his groundbreaking marriage of those aesthetics with often challenging subject matter. Mapplethorpe's style is present regardless of subject matter — from erotic nudes to self-portraits and flowers — as he ceaselessly strove for what he called "perfection of form."

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Self Portrait

Gelatin silver print.
Image: 27.9 x 58.4 cm (10 7/8 x 22 7/8 in.)
Sheet: 50.4 x 60.2 cm (19 7/8 x 23 3/4 in.)

Signed by the artist, titled, dated and numbered 3/10 in an unidentified hand, all in ink and copyright credit reproduction limitation stamp on the reverse of the flush-mount.

This work is number 3 from the edition of 10 + 2 AP. As of this writing, the other prints from the edition are all held in various collections.

£60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for £75,000

Contact Specialist
Genevieve Janvrin
Head of Photographs, Europe
+44 20 7318 4092


London Auction 19 May 2016